Summit County Library offers an Author Talk on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 2 p.m.
For longtime fans of NPR, the names Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg and Cokie Roberts bring to mind distinctive voices and excellent reporting. As Lisa Napoli’s book shows, these four reporters not only blazed new trails in broadcasting, they overcame discrimination and sexism in the 1970s work force. On Wednesday, locals can learn about the founding women of NPR directly from the book’s author.
The Summit County Library joined the Library Speaker Consortium this summer. The Consortium creates two to three online bestselling author events per month that are streamed to patrons of member libraries. These are live events with interactive Q&A sessions with authors.
Lisa Napoli is the featured author on Wednesday at 2 p.m. Her book, released last year in time for NPR’s 50th anniversary, is titled “Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie – The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR.”
Napoli, herself a journalist, started on the book after Cokie Roberts died in 2019. She says the pandemic gave her the time she needed to research the book.
“I spent a long time most of the first year of the pandemic, digging into old archival materials, old letters. There's a wonderful repository of information about early public radio at the University of Maryland. So, stitching together the lives of the women against the backdrop of second wave feminism in the 1970s and the evolution of, or the creation of public radio, was an interesting puzzle based on many, many different sources.”
Susan Stamberg became the first female host of a national news broadcast when she was named as co-host of NPR’s flagship program “All Things Considered” in 1972.
Linda Wertheimer began her career with NPR as the first director of “All Things Considered” in 1971 and became the first woman to anchor NPR’s coverage of a presidential nomination convention and election night.
At 78, Nina Totenberg is still reporting for NPR as a legal affairs correspondent focusing primarily on the activities and politics of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cokie Roberts worked for NPR as the congressional correspondent for more than a decade – at a time when women weren’t often involved in journalism at that level.
Napoli says she was surprised often during her research.
“Just knowing that these women were there at the start, which I didn't really completely understand the enormity of how marginalized women were at the time that they were working,” Napoli said. “I mean, I knew - I'm not that young - that I didn't know that women had a hard time of it. But I didn't realize how bad it was to get work in the early 70s and 70s for women, especially in broadcasting. And I didn't know all the stories that I knew about how scrappy and complicated things were for public radio, in its earliest days.”
Not only were these four women colleagues, Napoli says they became very good friends.
“We've all had workplaces where we had a best friend who helped us get through. And then maybe after you left the job, or they left a job that relationship didn't continue. But that wasn't the case with these women. They stuck by each other partially because they were they were so unique at the time to be on the air reporting serious news when few women were but also because the scrappy upstart nature of NPR they were helping form unions. And, also, they just helped each other they supported each other personally to when there were births or deaths or illnesses. They truly were dear, dear friends.”
Summit County Library members can tune in to hear more about the book with Napoli on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. The link to register can be found here.